Weight-loss jab Wegovy launched in UK today via NHS and some private doctors

4 September 2023, 08:08

Some NHS patients could be prescribed the Wegovy weight-loss drug after stock arrived in the UK
Some NHS patients could be prescribed the Wegovy weight-loss drug after stock arrived in the UK. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Some NHS patients could be prescribed weight loss jab Wegovy as part of a "controlled and limited launch".

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The drug, also known as semaglutide, will be prescribed via specialist NHS weight management services alongside a reduced calorie diet and exercise from September 4.

The drug works by blunting the appetite and there is currently a global shortage of the jabs.

However experts warn the jab is not a quick fix and should not be a substitute for a healthy diet or exercise.

Those eligible will have a body mass index (BMI) over 30 or a BMI of more than 27 and at least one weight-related co-morbidity.

What is Wegovy?

The treatment can help people shed more than 10 per cent of their body weight by making people feel full.

The jab is widely used in the US and has been lauded by celebrities.

However in trials, users of the drug often put the weight back on after stopping treatment.

The National Institute for Care and Excellence (Nice) says it should be used for a "maximum" of two years.

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Wegovy manufacturer Novo Nordisk said it believes the launch of the drug in the UK "will help provide an additional option to support people living with obesity".

In June, the Government announced a £40 million pilot to expand access to weight-loss jabs is to tackle obesity.

Speaking at the time, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the drug could be a "game-changer".

"Obesity puts huge pressure on the NHS," he said. "Using the latest drugs to support people to lose weight will be a game-changer by helping to tackle dangerous obesity-related health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer - reducing pressure on hospitals, supporting people to live healthier and longer lives, and helping to deliver on my priority to cut NHS waiting lists."

However, Novo Nordisk has since confirmed semaglutide is in short supply and said it expects it "to be constrained for the foreseeable future".

A "proportion of available supply" has been allocated to NHS services.

"We will continue to work with healthcare professionals to help ensure that patients with the highest unmet medical need are prioritised," the company said.

"We are closely monitoring Wegovy demand and are working with regulators and providers to ensure people living with obesity can have access to and remain on treatment."

An NHS spokesperson said: "Despite global supply constraints, NHS England is taking action to begin implementing Nice guidance for weight management, while at the same time working to restore supplies of this class of drug for people with type 2 diabetes.

"Around 50,000 eligible patients in England could be prescribed Wegovy through NHS specialist weight management services, that are able to provide appropriate multidisciplinary care."

It comes after a five-year by study by Novo Nordisk, known as the Select trial, found the drug can cut the risk of a heart attack or stroke in obese people with cardiovascular disease by a fifth.

It included 17,604 adults over the age of 45 from across 41 countries, each with a BMI of more than 27 and established cardiovascular disease, with no history of diabetes.